How to make your company successful AND good-looking

Are you interested in increasing the performance of your company in a structured and creative way?
Visual Management might be just the solution…

What’s it all about?

Visual Management is a management system focusing on performance management and continuous improvement based on the use of graphic visualization techniques and information sharing.

This method has been frequently applied in the field of project management, where so-called “war-rooms” are installed: all the project relevant information is hung up on the walls of a project headquarter (or another appropriate place) to make it directly available to everybody working on the project. The project manager is then responsible for ensuring that the information is correct, meaningful and updated on a regular basis.

This is useful in project oriented settings, because events may be moving fast, facts changing quickly and people sometimes working independently although they still have to coordinate their approaches in order to keep track of the developments and keep sight of the big picture.

A second application of Visual Management applies to lean production settings, the most prominent example being the Toyota Production System. It uses elements of the Visual Management technique to enhance efficiency, improve quality and reduce costs.

But it is not only in these typical settings that this method can be used, in fact, almost any company or even a single team can work with elements of Visual Management.

A crucial success factor of this method is that it makes strategic elements tangible and visible by integrating them into the daily business routine and by taking the organizational vision, the core values, the goals and the corporate culture into account. By demonstrating the relevance of these elements to the employees with respect to their daily business this method has proven to be extremely motivating.

The application of the method results in several positive outcomes. In addition to the indisputable benefits of improved productivity and reduced costs, it may also achieve an increase in customer and employee satisfaction as well as an improvement of employee competencies. In fact, Visual Management can fulfill one or more different functions : according to the applied context it can enhance transparency, discipline, continuous improvement, job facilitation, on-the-job-training, shared ownership, management by facts, simplification or unification.

What does it take?

Visual Management offers a wide range of benefits, so of course it inevitably also incurs certain costs. The preparation is especially time consuming, whereas the costs for material depend on the scope of the project, but it is possible to achieve significant results even if there is only a small budget available.

Nevertheless, as in all performance management systems, the support of the management is crucial as is the nomination of someone to supervise its implementation. This responsibility can for example be located in the quality department, although this depends on the organization as such and is not a must. The implementation process is as follows :

Text box for more information on the steps (Liff & Posey, 2004)

  • Plan: Take your time to clearly define the vision, mission and goals. This is the most important step of the process!
  • Frame: Review the existing systems and structures and match them to the vision mission and goals defined in the first step.
  • Create: This is where the implementation phase starts. Visualize the results of the first two steps and adapt the physical space.
  • Focus: In this phase include elements of the company history (for example show the development of a product) and place the customer in the center of attention.
  • Detail: Regularly adapt the elements to current circumstances and include feedback. Constantly revise the results achieved in previous steps.
  • Renew: Think about keeping the project alive. Make sure that somebody feels responsible.

Bear in mind that the implementation phase might take several months, preparation is (as always) crucial and the shift to an information sharing culture might be a great cultural change for many companies.

The design aspect is of course an important factor, but Visual Management can be implemented even using simple means. In the end, it is not about looking good, but about creating a company where information is shared and valued amongst employees and managers, with a clearly defined strategy and sound performance management.

Ready, steady, go!

Perhaps you are not sure if your company is ready for such a big step? Why not just give it a try and implement Visual Management in your own sphere of influence. This will be a perfect opportunity to develop and test the ideas, which can at a later stage be rolled out in other teams and eventually turn your organization into a Visual Management society!

 

Birgit Fleckenstein
Consultant in Organisational Transformation @ MindForest Group

 


Sources:
1 Liff, S. & Posey, P. A. (2004). Seeing is believing: How the new art of visual management can boost performance throughout your organization. Amacom, New York.
2 Tezel, B.A., Koskela, L.J. and Tzortzopoulos, P. (2009) The functions of visual management, in: International Research Symposium, 2009, Salford, UK.
3 Liff, S. & Posey, P. A. (2004). Seeing is believing: How the new art of visual management can boost performance throughout your organization. Amacom, New York.